Nearly 40 LSC candidates turned out for Center Square Journal‘s meet and greet Tuesday night at DANK Haus, 4740 N. Western Ave., demonstrating their commitment to improving Chicago’s public schools.
State Rep. Greg Harris (13th District), on hand to show his support along with colleague Ann Williams (11th), noted that while the legislature in Springfield deals with big-picture issues such as school funding and pension reform, “What you guys decide in our neighborhoods will determine whether our schools are good, fair or excellent.”
Outnumbering potential voters in attendance, the candidates took the opportunity to establish contacts between schools, share campaign strategies (“You mean you haven’t been knocking on doors?”) and chat up the competition in a manner so friendly as to put all other elected officials to shame.
Brady Jones threw her hat into the ring for an LSC community position at Lake View High School after receiving an email about the dearth of candidates. The former high school teacher-turned-grad student answered the call, as did a slew of others. Lake View now has 12 candidates vying for two community slots, an embarrassment of riches in LSC terms.
“I really have flipped it,” she said of unexpectedly running against such crowded field. “It really says a lot about our neighborhood that so many people are interested.”
The message seems to be clicking with residents that CPS’ two-tiered system–selective enrollment vs. everyone else–is broken, affecting not just families with students but the broader community.
“As a parent and a taxpayer and somebody who believes in the value of public education, I want to make sure we get our money’s worth,” said Mike Brandfon, a father of 18-month-old twins who’s running for a community spot on the LSC of Ravenswood Elementary. “I want to have more professionals stay in the area, not move to the suburbs, not send their kids to private schools.”
Echoing a sentiment shared by many of his fellow candidates, Brandfon expressed the opinion that LSCs need to do a better job of tapping businesses and non-parents (for lack of a better term) for support. “Parents are involved and doing whatever they can,” he said. But with diminishing funds “parents aren’t enough.”
Indeed, finances are just one of the challenges incoming LSCs will face.
“Big policy changes are coming to CPS,” Linda Lenz informed the candidates. Lenz, a former education writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, is the founder and publisher of Catalyst, a news organization that essentially bird-dogs CPS.
Almost simultaneously, the school system is preparing to roll out a new common core curriculum, a new process for teacher evaluation and a longer (pardon us, “full”) school day, though “it’s unclear where the money’s going to come from” for the last item. Following a spate of principal retirements, numerous LSCs will also be conducting searches to replace their school’s top administrator, a responsibility that Lenz termed “arguably the most important job in the school system.”
Despite the significant impact an LSC can make regarding a school’s performance, “no CPS administration has ever embraced LSCs,” Lenz said. “You have your work cut out for you.”
CSJ‘s meet and greet was sponsored by Lyons Family Eye Care, 3250 N. Lincoln Ave. Read our coverage of their recent mission to Honduras.